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lent men; and the same church which was first built by the apostles, was raised out of its ruins by them.
Now the gospel, to eradicate this disposition, which is so natural and strong in fallen man, is in nothing more clear and express, than in declaring, that "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in God's sight.” The apostle asserts without distinction, that by the works of the law justification cannot be obtained, whether they proceed from the power of nature, or the grace of the Spirit; for he argues against the merit of works to justification, not against the principle from whence they proceed, Rom. iii.-And where he most affectionately declares his esteem of Christ and his righteousness, as the sole meritorious cause of his justification, he expressly rejects “his own righteousness which is of the law,” Phil. iii. 9. By his own righteousness he comprehends all the works of the renewed, as well as natural state; for they are performed by man, and are acts of obedience to the law, which commands perfect love to God. These are slight, withering leaves, that cannot hide our nakedness, and conceal our shame, when we appear before God in judgment. Not but that good works are most pleasing to him, but not for this end, to expiate sin. We must distinguish between their substance, and the quality that error giveth them. The opinion of merit changes their nature, and turns gold into dross. And if our real righteousness, how exact soever, cannot absolve us from the least guilt, much less can the performance of some external actions, though specious in appearance, yet not commanded by God, and that have no moral value. All the disciplines and severities whereby men think to make satisfaction to the law, are like a crown of straw, that dishonours the head instead of adorning it. But that righteousness which was acquired by the obedience and meritorious sufferings of Christ, and is embraced by faith, is all-sufficient for our justification. This is as pure as innocence, to all the effects of pardon and reconciliation ; this alone secures us from the charge of the law and the challenge of justice. Being clothed with this, we may enter into heaven, and converse with the pure society of angels, without blushing. The saints who now reign in glory, were not men who lived in the perfection of holiness here below; but repenting, believing sinners, who are washed white in the blood of the Lamb.
(2.) The most universal hinderance of men's complying with the conditions of pardon by Christ, is, the predominant love of some lust. Although men would entertain him as a Saviour to redeem them from hell, yet they reject him as their Lord. Those in the parable, who said, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” expressed the inward sense and silent thoughts of all carnal men. Many would depend on his sacrifice, yet will not submit to his sceptre; they would have Christ to pacify their consciences, and the world to please their affections. Thus they divide between the offices of Christ, his priestly and his regal. They would have Christ to die for them, but not to live in them. They divide the acts of the same office; they lean on his cross to support them from falling into hell, but crucify not one lust on it. They are desirous he should reconcile them to God by his sacrifice, but not to bless them, in turning them away from their iniquities, Acts iii. 26. And thus in effect they absolutely refuse him, and render his death unavailable ; for the receiving of Christ as Mediator in all his offices, is the condition indispensably requisite to partake of the benefits of his sufferings. The resigning up of ourselves to him as our Prince, is as necessary an act of justifying faith, as the apprehending of the crucified Saviour. So that in every real Christian, faith is the principle of obedience and peace, and is as inscparable from holiness, as from salvation.
To conclude this argument: from hence we may see, how desperate the state is of impenitent unbelievers. They are cut off from any claim to the benefits of Christ's death.The law of faith, like that of the Medes and Persians, is unalterable; “He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life.” Christ died not to expiate final infidelity. This is the moral sin, that actually damns. It charges all their guilt upon sinners; it renders the sufferings of Christ fruitless and ineffectual to them ; for it is not the preparation of a sovereign remedy that cures the disease, but the applying of it. As our sins were imputed to him, upon the account of his union with us in nature and his consent to be our Surety; so his righteousness is meritoriously imputed to us, upon our union with him by a lively faith. The man that looked on the rainbow, when he was ready to be drowned, what relief was it to him, that God had promised not to drown the world, when he must perish in the waters? So though
Christ hath purchased pardon for repenting believers, and a rainbow encompasses the throne of God, the sign of reconciliation, what advantage is this to the unbeliever, who dies in his sins and drops into the lake of fire ? It is not from any defect of mercy in God or righteousness in Christ, but for the obstinate refusal of it, that men certainly perish.This enhances their guilt and misery. All the rich expense of grace for their redemption shall be charged upon them. The blood of Christ shall not be imputed for their ransom, but for their deeper damnation : and instead of speaking better things than the blood of Abel, shall call louder for vengeance against them, than that innocent blood which reached heaven with its voice against the murderer. Briefly, whom so precious a sacrifice doth not redeem, they are reserved entire victims, whole burnt-offerings to divine justice. Every impenitent unbeliever shall be "salted with fire,” Mark ix. 49.
THE HOLINESS OF GOD IN REDEMPTION.
Of all the perfections of the Deity, none is more worthy of his nature, and so peculiarly admirable, as his infinite purity. It is the most shining attribute that derives a. lustre to all the rest; he is “glorious in holiness," Exod. xv. 11. Wisdom degenerates into craft, power into tyranny, mercy loses its nature, without holiness. He swears by it as his supreme excellency: “Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David," Psalm lxxxix. 35. It is the most venerable attribute, in the praise whereof the harmony of heaven agrees.
The angels and saints above are represented, expressing their ecstacy and ravishment at the beauty of holiness ; “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory,” Isa. vi. 3. This only he loves and values in the creature, being the impression of his most divine and amiable perfection. Inferior creatures have a resemblance of other divine attributes: the winds and thunder set forth God's power, the firmness of the rocks and the incorruptibility of the heavens are an obscure representation of his unchangeableness; but holiness, that is the most orient pearl in the crown of heaven, shines only in the reasonable creature. Upon this account man only is said to be formed after his image. And in men there are some appearances of the Deity, that do not entitle to his special love. In princes there is a shadow of his sovereignty, yet they may be the objects of his displeasure ; but a likeness to God in holiness attracts his eye and heart, and infinitely endears the creature to him.
Now this attribute is in a special manner provoked by man's sin, and we are restored to the favour and friendship of God, in such a manner as may preserve the honour of it entire and inviolable.
This will fully appear, by considering what our Redeemer suffered for the purchasing of our pardon; and the terms upon which the precious benefits of his death are conveyed to us; and what he hath done to restore our lost holiness, that we may be qualified for the enjoyment of God.
I. God's infinite purity is declared in his justice, in that he would not pardon sin, but upon such terms as might fully demonstrate how odious it was to him. What inflamed the wrath of God against his beloved Son, whom by a voice from heaven he declared to be the object of his delight? What made him inexorable to his prayers and tears, when hé solicited the divine power and love, the attributes that relieve the miserable, crying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; let this cup pass from me?" What made him suspend all comforting influences, and by a dreadful desertion afflict him when he was environed with sorrows? It is sin only that caused this fierce displeasure, not inherent, (for the Messiah " was cut off, but not for himself,”) but imputed by his voluntary undertaking for us. “God so loved the world," and so hated sin, that he gave his Son to purchase our pardon by sufferings. When his compassions to man were at the highest, yet then his antipathy against sin was so strong, that no less a sacrifice could reconcile him to us. Thus God declared himself to be unappeasable to sin, though not to sinners. • II. The privileges that are purchased by our Redeemer's sufferings, are dispensed upon those terms which are honourable to God's holiness. I will instance in three great benefits of the evangelical covenant—the pardon of sin, adoption into God's family, and the inheritance of glory; all which are conditional, and annexed to special qualifications in the persons who have a title to them.
1. The death of Christ is beneficial to pardon and life, to those only who repent and believe. The holy God will by no means spare the guilty, that is, declare the guilty innocent, or forgive an incapable subject. All the promises of grace and mercy are with respect to repentance from dead works, and to a lively faith. The Son of God is made a Prince and a Saviour, “to give repentance and remission of sins." And the apostle tells us, that “ being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The first includes a cordial grief for sins passed, and sincere effectual resolutions to forsake them; and hath a necessary conjunction with pardon, as by virtue of the divine command, so from a condecency and fitness with respect to God, the giver of pardon, and to the quality of the blessing itself. The other qualification is faith, to which justification is in a special manner attributed; not in respect of efficiency or merit, for the mercy of God upon the account of Christ's satisfaction is the sole cause of our pardon; but as a moral instrument, that is the condition upon which God absolves man from his guilt. And this grace of faith, as it respects entire Christ in all his offices, so it contains the seed and first life of evangelical obedience. It crucifies our lusts, overcomes the world, works by love, as well as justifies the person by relying on the merits of Christ for salvation.
2. Adoption into God's family, the purchase of Christ's meritorious sufferings, who redeemed us from the servitude of sin and death, is conferred upon us in regeneration; for this prerogative consists not merely in an extrinsic relation to God and a title to the eternal inheritance, but in our participation of the divine nature, whereby we are the living images of God's holiness. Civil adoption gives the title, but not the reality of a son; but the divine is efficacious, and changes us into the real likeness of our heavenly Father. We cannot enter into this state of favour, but upon our cleansing from all impurity; “Be ye separate” from the pollutions of the profane world, “and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty,” 2 Cor. vi. 17. These are the indispensable terms upon which we are received into that honourable alliance. None can enjoy the privilege, but those that yield the obedience of children.